Summary: Major Teyla Emmagan makes the biggest decision of her life, to join the Atlantis expedition.

Author's notes: First of all, a HUGE thanks to the people in the Teyla Appreciation Thread on GW. Their words and convos with me through the toughest part of the Big Bang pushed me to post this. Thank you guys so much!!! :D :D :D This was written for the scifibigbang comm on LJ. Parts will be posted daily until the story is complete. As always, I would love to hear what you think.

September 8, 2002
Central Afghanistan

The heat of the sun was nearly as unforgiving as the Taliban.

It was another sweltering day in Afghanistan; the sweat pooled on the base of Teyla Emmagan's neck, despite the fact she was in the cabin of a helicopter, cool air blowing on her face. The day had been uneventful, but successful; she had no contact with the Taliban as she delivered the much-needed medical supplies to a local village.

Now she was heading back to base where she would reload her chopper with supplies and head back into the harsh Afghan land. It was difficult, but satisfying work.

Teyla landed her helicopter and exited the cabin, stretching out her legs. Several other officers started to load her chopped with supplies. To her surprise, Major Chris Halling was waiting for her in the hangar.

Instantly, she was on alert. Halling would not be out here unless something was wrong. Though they were part of the same unit, Halling could usually be found dealing with the local people, trying to earn their trust.

Quickly, she walked to him. "What is wrong?" she demanded.

Halling pulled her to the side of the hangar, away from the other pilots. "Captain Lorne's helicopter was shot down at 1400 hours as he was traveling from Arghandab," he told her quietly.

Teyla froze. Evan had been shot down? Was he safe? She looked around the hangar, which was decidedly inactive for a rescue mission. "Has he been recovered? Do we know if he is all right?"

Halling frowned. He knew she would take the news with difficulty. "We don't know, Teyla. We lost contact with him shortly after he went down." He took a deep breath. "The rescue mission is on hold. The area has too many insurgents to authorize a mission. We are working with the locals in the area, trying to come up with a plan."

Teyla's eyes widened. They intended to leave Evan out there? "Then I volunteer, sir."

Her response was not unexpected. Halling knew the loyalty she felt to those in her unit ran deep. "I know how you feel, Teyla. I already offered myself, but the decision still stands. There is to be no rescue mission of Captain Lorne until the Pentagon gives the ok," Halling responded softly.

"Halling," she said, not willing to give up, "what if he is injured? Or the Taliban kidnaps him? Do you realize what they would do to him?"

He gently placed a hand on her shoulder, understanding her pain. Their unit was close; to have one of them missing was painful. "It is not out decision to make. We have our orders, now we must follow them."

His answer didn't satisfy her; it only added fuel to her desire to save Evan. "I want to talk to Colonel Francis."

"Teyla,' he said softly, "you need to let it go."

She did not intend to do any such thing. "You know Evan would do no less for any of us," she hissed.

He sighed. Teyla had always been protective of those in her unit, almost to a fault. "Let the fighting die down, then you will have clearance to save Captain Lorne," he assured her. Halling looked to her helicopter which had been restocked with supplies. "Perhaps things will change when you have returned."

Teyla could not understand how he could be so unaffected by this. She looked at him for a second before seeing the worry in his eyes. She realized he was worrying as much as she was, but they were bound by the orders given to them. She nodded. "Perhaps they will."

Halling offered a weak smile, knowing how difficult it was for her to say those words. "Travel safely," he said, putting his hand softly on her shoulder.

"I will," she said, turning around and walking back to her helicopter.

By the time she had turned on the engines, she had already decided she would find Lorne. Once she had dropped off the medical supplies, she would take a diversion and rescue her fallen comrade. She would deal with the repercussions later.

Thankfully, her flight to Senjaray was uneventful. She delivered all of the supplies to the grateful village and again she was in the air. Her adrenaline pumped through her as she steered the chopper away from the base, towards where Lorne was last heard from.

As expected, not two minutes had passed before the base was attempting to contact her. With a flick of the wrist, she cut her radio off. "I am sorry," she whispered, hoping that Halling would understand how she felt; she could not leave one of her fellow soldiers behind.

Soon, she found the wreckage of Lorne's helicopter. Even from this distance, she could see the steady trail of smoke rising from it; he must have taken a direct hit. Cautiously, she looked around for any enemy fighters; the terrain appeared clear. In the distance, she saw what looked like another fallen chopper and a small village. Perhaps Evan headed that way.

She flew towards the wreckage when the sound of gunfire interrupted her survey of the land. Suddenly, the helicopter began to spin. Knowing the helicopter was going to crash, Teyla did all she could to control the crash.

The impact was less than what she expected and she managed to come out of the crash relatively uninjured. She landed grabbed her P-90 and her backpack, full of supplies, and exited the cabin.

The sun rays were atrociously hot. She cautiously made her way to where Evan's chopper had been shot down. Sweat was already beginning to bead on Teyla's neck as she approached the wreckage. She peered inside; no one was in there. She did note, however, the small pool of blood that was on the floor of the cabin.

Evan had been injured.

Quickly, she scanned the sand for clues to which direction he had gone. There, to the east, she saw his heavy footprints and every so often, a drop of blood. She followed the path carefully.

The sounds of a car's engine caused her to flatten herself against the scorching sand. She remained frozen there until the sound faded away.

The enemy was close.

Knowing she was running out of time, she sped up her pursuit of Lorne. As she climbed to the top of a tall sand dune, she looked through her binoculars. She allowed herself a small smile as she found Captain Lorne, hiding in the wreckage of the chopper she had seen before she had crash- landed.

To the east, she saw several jeeps driving across the desert, none of them heading towards Lorne. Still, she knew she would have to be careful. Making sure her gun was loaded, she made her way over to the helicopter.

Several silent minutes passed as she made her way to the wreckage. Teyla wished she could call out to Lorne, to assure him he was not alone and help was coming, but she was in no position to do so. Alerting him of her presence would only bring an unwanted presence of Taliban fighters.

Finally, she slid down the last sand dune and approached Lorne, making sure he saw her before he fired his weapon, believing she was the enemy.

"Evan," she said with a small smile as she tucked herself behind the Russian helicopter.

"Teyla?" he asked, almost not believing what he was seeing. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"I am rescuing you," she said. Before she could continue, she noticed movement on the sand dune to the east. "Wait here."

Carefully, she made her way to the top another sand dune. She pulled out her binoculars. Three men were walking, looking around for them. They did not have much time. She ran back to the helicopter.

"You're crazy, you know that?" Lorne said with a smile.

Teyla looked at him; he was worse than what she had thought. He had a huge gash in his leg and several more wounds on his arm and across his cheek. The blood loss had been severe if the glassy look in his eyes was any clue.

"Where's the rest of the rescue party?" he asked, looking around.

Teyla wouldn't answer him.

"You came here alone?" he asked in disbelief. He slumped against the side of the chopper. "I'm assuming against orders, huh?"

Teyla shrugged. If she could save Evan's life, then it was worth not following orders. "Yes. Halling said that Command felt the area was not secure enough for a rescue mission. I did not think they would make a decision in time. Apparently, I was correct."

She pulled out some gauze from her pack and started wrapping his leg. "I saw your helicopter. You are lucky to be alive."

He winced as she pulled the bandage tight across the wound. "Where's your chopper?"

"It was shot down," she reluctantly admitted.

Lorne frowned. "You should have stuck with negotiating. You suck at the rescue business," he joked, despite the seriousness of the situation. He looked at the sand dunes for a moment. "This place is crawling with Taliban. Tell me you have a plan to get us out of here."

Teyla walked away, scanning the dunes where she had seen the men. "We need to leave now." She flashed him an unsure, but determined smile. "I will get you back to base, Evan. Do not worry."

She slung his arm over her shoulder and they slowly began making their way through the desert. They climbed a slightly sloped sand dune. Teyla frowned at their slow progress, if they were spotted, they would never be able to hide from the Taliban.

When they reached the top, Teyla spotted a gnarled tree trunk and leaned Lorne against it. "Wait here." She pulled out her radio and tried to establish contact with the base. "Arclight, this is Roundhouse Zero-Six. Do you read?"

No response.

She turned back to Evan, who was beginning to lose consciousness. "Evan," she called as she shook him slightly. "Evan! You must stay awake."

His eyes fluttered open. "Teyla, when we get out of here, I'll make sure I say something really nice at your court martial."

Teyla smiled briefly. "You must stay awake in order to be able to testify."

"I'm trying," he said sincerely.

"I cannot contact the base. We need to move forward," she said.

Gingerly, he stood with Teyla supporting his weight. They walked for nearly a quarter of an hour, occasionally having to hide from the view of the Taliban fighters. Finally, they reached the tall sand dune Teyla had climbed at the beginning of her search for Lorne.

He looked at the steep slope and forced a smile. "Wanted to make this rescue as much of a challenge as possible, huh?"

"You can do it. The helicopter is not much further," she encouraged him. "We will use the radio there."

Carefully, they stepped on the slope together. Despite their caution, the moment Lorne put his weight on his injured leg, his knee buckled. He fell down, pulling Teyla with him. They rolled down the hill, not stopping until the reached the bottom of the hill.

Teyla quickly climbed off from the top of Lorne. He held his leg, squeezing his eyes shut. "We must hurry," Teyla said.

Lorne opened one eye slightly. "I'm sorry if I'm slowing you down," he said dryly.

"It is not much further," she promised as she pulled him on his feet again.

They walked silently for a couple of minutes. His steps were getting more unsteady. Teyla knew he didn't have much time left. "Teyla," he said softly. "Whatever happens…thank you for coming to get me."

"You are welcome, but you will be fine," she said softly.

When they climbed up the next sand dune, Teyla was welcomed with a wonderful sight. There was a jeep with a single man guarding it next to her chopper. They had a way back to the base.

She aimed her P-90 at the unsuspecting man, shooting him once in the chest. "We need to go before the others find us," she called to Lorne.

He didn't move.

Not wasting anytime, she dragged him across the sand to the jeep. With a heave, she placed him in the passenger side of the car. Quickly, she hotwired the car and drove west, back to their base. Back to safety.

She glanced at Lorne, watching the shallow movements of Evan's chest. Her career might not survive the upcoming days, but Evan would.

And that was enough for Captain Teyla Emmagan.